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Motorola buys high-speed wireless chipmaker

The purchase of XtremeSpectrum gives Motorola a product lead in ultrawideband chips, but could plunge the company into a heated standards battle.

Ben Charny Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Ben Charny
covers Net telephony and the cellular industry.
Ben Charny
2 min read
Motorola has bought wireless chipmaker XtremeSpectrum, a move that could let it jump to market with superfast wireless broadband technology--but could also give it a standards headache.

The Schaumburg, Ill.-based company said on Monday that it had purchased XtremeSpectrum, but did not disclose financial details of the deal.

Motorola has for some time supported XtremeSpectrum's ultrawideband (UWB) technology, a rival to Bluetooth that is capable of creating wireless connections that transfer data at rates as high as 100 megabits per second. That's enough to carry bandwidth-hogging video and audio, a characteristic that has led backers to see a future for UWB in stereos, televisions and--ultimately--in handsets, as well as in computers.

Allied Business Intelligence expects the technology that wins the race to be the basis of the UWB standard, which will ultimately generate about $1.39 billion in revenue by 2007.

XtremeSpectrum has submitted its technology as a proposed UWB standard to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), but it faces an uphill battle.

The company's sole competition is the MultiBand OFDM Alliance, a group of 34 technology heavyweights that includes newly ensconced member Nokia. The alliance's proposal won a majority of the votes cast during a recent IEEE UWB task group meeting. The vote, while telling, was inconclusive, since it fell short of the 75 percent majority required for approval.

The IEEE task group began meeting Monday in New Mexico, and a second vote from its members is expected soon.

Motorola Vice President Omid Tahernia said XtremeSpectrum's chips, the first such silicon to be shipped to manufacturers, will be in products that are scheduled to debut at least two years before those of competitors.

"We have products, we have customer engagement," Tahernia said. "Customers will ultimately vote with their choices, as technology becomes available."

Steve Turner, UWB business development manager at Multiband OFDM Alliance member Texas Instruments, acknowledges that XtremeSpectrum has a head start. But he said that won't make up for the roster of technology heavyweights backing the rival proposal from the alliance.

"I don't see how things are going to change" in light of the acquisition, Turner said, referring to the standards face-off. "Motorola has been leading Xtreme's proposal effort for a couple of months."